ENG505 -- Beowulf, Cultural Memory, and War
Prof. Eileen Joy
SHORT READING RESPONSES
Beowulf Manuscript, Folio 172v (ll. 1936-44)
Each week (beginning the week of February 2-6), you are responsible for writing a response (preferably in the neighborhood of 1 to 2 pages, typed and double-spaced) to one or more of the readings under discussion for that particular week. It is not your job to respond to absolutely everything we are reading in any given week--that would be asking too much, and it couldn't be done, anyway, in one to two typed pages--rather, you are to choose one reading that intrigues you in some way, and respond to a point or points raised in that reading. OR, you may want to address an idea, or critical point, that interests you that relates, somehow, to more than just one of the readings.
You may approach this response writing in a variety of several ways, but the one thing that I must insist on is that you do NOT simply summarize something you have read (we call this a "literature review" or "paraphrase" and it is not appropriate in a graduate-level course, where you are expected to thoughtfully and critically engage with others' ideas, not just re-hash those ideas). Furthermore, do not just restate what an author has said simply to say, "I absolutely agree" (and leave it at that), or to comment, "I think that's interesting" (and then not elaborate on why, exactly, you think it's interesting). Keep in mind that these response papers will be graded mainly for the quality of your effort put forth (on a scale of 1 to 10), and that they are meant to be especially helpful for us in class each Thursday when we begin discussions about the readings, and where it is essential that you, the students, lead the discussions. Your response papers, therefore, are our conversational "launching pads."
Having said all that, here are a few pointers for how you might proceed:
Choose an reading, or portion of a reading, that was particularly confusing or difficult for you, and outline/explain (in detail) your points of confusion and difficulty.
Choose a reading, or a portion of a reading, that you disagree with for some reason, and outline/explain your points of disagreement.
Choose a reading, or a portion of a reading, that raises an idea and/or subject that really intrigues you and gets you thinking about other things you have read/learned in other courses, and write about that.
Choose a reading, or a portion of a reading, that sets a train of thought into motion in your head, and outline/explain that train of thought
Write about correspondences you see between two or more readings (from the same week, or between different weeks, as long as one of the readings mentioned is from the current week the response is due), and what you think is interesting about those correspondences.
Write about how a particular reading got you thinking about the poem, Beowulf, itself, and how it might have changed the way you read the poem now.
These are just suggested writing strategies, and it may be that there are many other ways to approach these reading responses. My main concern, again, is that your responses not simply summarize material being read, and that they critically engage, somehow, with one or more of the readings (or even just a portion of one of the readings).
These responses should be sent to me each Thursday (by 6:00 p.m.) via e-mail attachment (firstname.lastname@example.org), formatted in Microsoft Word or WordPerfect or as .rtf or .pdf documents, and using a standard font (such as Courier, Times, New Roman). Each week I will post excerpts from these responses on our Beowulf Blog, and Prof. Bruce Gilchrist's graduate students at Université Laval in Quebec will also be joining in our online discussions there. In addition, please also bring a hard copy of your responses to class so that I can collect them and respond to them in writing.